Skip to content
Nerve disorders Articles
Q. My feet tingle or feel numb like they are asleep at times, mostly when I am in bed or with my legs elevated. What causes that?
A. The symptoms you describe may be related to peripheral neuropathy, which is nerve damage that affects multiple nerves leading out from the spinal cord to the arms and legs. Symptoms are often equal in both feet. If only one foot, or part of a foot, is affected, this suggests compression of an individual nerve.
Another possibility for foot tingling or numbness with leg elevation is poor circulation, but this is often accompanied by leg cramping while walking and color changes in the feet (pale or white when elevated, and red when lowered).
Using electronic devices, such as smartphones and computers, can lead to joint pain. Frequent texting can cause strain or overuse injuries of the tendons that run from the wrist to the thumb (a condition called De Quervain’s tenosynovitis). Pushing buttons too hard can lead to inflammation around the tendons and pulleys that bend the fingers, increasing the risk for trigger finger (stenosing tenosynovitis). Typing can worsen carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. Looking down at devices for long periods can lead to neck pain. Pain relief may come with rest and changing the way one uses electronic devices.
Coffee drinking appears to be safe over all, although for women it is associated with higher risks for fracture and pregnancy complications.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition caused when the median nerve, which runs down your arm into your hand, is compressed by a ligament that crosses over it. Symptoms include numbness and pain in your hand. Women tend to be more prone to carpal tunnel syndrome. If you suspect you have carpal tunnel syndrome, don’t delay treatment, or you may wind up with lasting nerve damage.
Fainting occurs when something interrupts blood flow to the brain, causing a sudden, temporary loss of consciousness. Although usually harmless, fainting can cause injuries and sometimes signals a problem with the heart or circulatory system. Some faints result from a strong emotion (from getting bad news, for example) or excessive straining or coughing. Older people may faint because of low blood pressure when standing up, known as orthostatic hypotension. Other possible causes include a heart rate that’s either too fast or too slow, which may result from electrical abnormalities in the heart, thyroid problems, or certain medications.
Neuropathy is a common problem in the nerves that causes burning and numbness, especially in the feet, calves, and thighs. There are several types of neuropathy, and the most common is called axonal neuropathy. Causes include diabetes, alcohol abuse, an underactive thyroid gland, and some types of cancer chemotherapy. Treatment starts with addressing the underlying cause. For example, people with diabetes should lower blood sugar. There are many medicines that may help, but they don’t help everyone
Bell's palsy, also called facial palsy, is a disorder caused by damage to the facial nerve, the nerve that supplies the muscles of the face. This damage causes partial or total paralysis of one side of the face.
No one is certain why Bell's palsy occurs, but it may be due to a virus such as herpes simplex, the common cold sore virus. About 1 of 70 people develop Bell's palsy, usually just once.
Symptoms come on suddenly, sometimes preceded by a day or two of pain behind the ear. About half of all people who get Bell's palsy have partial or full paralysis of the face within 48 hours; the rest develop it within five days. Symptoms include:
People with peripheral neuropathy may experience pain, numbness, tingling, and other unpleasant sensations. Often the cause cannot be determined, so the condition must be managed by attempting to treat the symptoms, especially if one of them is pain. Unfortunately, conventional painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin may not be very effective. The alternatives are off-label prescriptions of antiseizure medications and tricyclic antidepressants. The antiseizure drug gabapentin (Neurontin) does seem to be effective for some people and physicians prescribe tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil), desipramine (Norpramin), and nortriptyline (Pamelor). The side effects can be a serious drawback but they may be a reasonable trade-off if there's relief for troubling symptoms, especially pain. Many people with peripheral neuropathy say yoga, acupuncture, and other somewhat unconventional treatments have done wonders. Supporting data are scarce, but these alternative approaches might be worth a try as long as there's little risk of harm.
Do you have weakness or paralysis of the muscles in your face?
Can you still raise your eyebrows?
Can you close your eyelids?
Have you had ear pain? If so, on which side?
Are your eyes watery?
Have you noticed any change in your sense of taste?
Have you had problems hearing?
Have you had problems chewing?
Over what period of time did your symptoms develop?
Have you had a recent upper respiratory tract infection (for example, a cold)?
Could you have had a tick bite in the recent past?
Do you have diabetes?
Neurological exam focusing on the strength of the facial muscles
Examination of the ears, nose, and throat
Blood tests for blood sugar and possibly Lyme disease
Hearing test (if you report difficulty hearing)
MRI computed tomography (CT) of the head (if your history and exam are concerning for a stroke or tumor)